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Arts and Culture

Psychoanalyzing the President

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Posted on Oct 14, 2011
Flickr/The White House

A study in the key of POTUS: Here we see Obama in a chair.

He did it before with the Freudian treasure trove that is George W. Bush, and now author and professor Justin Frank has unleashed another exercise in armchair analysis upon our sitting president with his new book, “Obama on the Couch.” Frank has observed our nation’s leader from his academic perch at George Washington University and believes Obama grapples with a different kind of Oedipal issue than his predecessor and that this “father hunger” even played a role in the assassination of Osama bin Laden under Obama’s paternally malnourished watch.

Right. Now will the contingent from Vienna please sit down?  —KA

“Washington Whispers” in U.S. News & World Report:

This is Frank’s second psychoanalytical book about a president. While a sympathetic look at Obama, it follows Bush on the Couch, a sharply critical analysis that suggested then President George W. Bush was disturbed. In that book, he predicted that someone like Obama—“completely different,” “someone not ... white”—would succeed Bush. What the nation ended up with, however, is “an almost tragic figure,” Frank writes.

The general theme is that Obama has been affected both by being biracial and by the abandonment of his two dads during his childhood. The result is that he is overly protective of his own nuclear family, desires greatly to see national unity, and yet harbors anger that he took out on bin Laden.

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D.R. Zing's avatar

By D.R. Zing, December 15, 2011 at 10:18 pm Link to this comment

Wow. Thank you all for the kind comments.

One thing:  I am not a medical doctor. I do not have a doctorate of any
kind. 

Warm regards. 

D.R Zing, not Dr. Zing.

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By John Poole, October 27, 2011 at 5:57 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In 2008 I said he was a momma’s boy raised by a doofus hippie mother who was
clueless about men and sex. He’s still a momma’s boy.

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cpb's avatar

By cpb, October 17, 2011 at 2:43 pm Link to this comment

“the FDA should require Dr. Zings…..post as a warning
label on every bottle of meds..but their too busy trying
to outlaw vitamins so the pharmaceutical companies
can turn them into prescriptions medications at 10 times
the price…”

- prisonersdilemma

Too true.  Frightening but true.  Nice post Dr. Zing.

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racetoinfinity's avatar

By racetoinfinity, October 16, 2011 at 11:39 pm Link to this comment

I’ll dissent from the other commentators, and say that there might be some truth and value to Frank’s conjectures.  I have always believed that Obama was a stealth candidate put up by the corporate plutocracy, who masqueraded as a semi-progressive during the campaign (and will again), and he does lie awfully easily, so the Freudian father angle would just be a subtext, if true, as far as I’m concerned.  However, after Ron Suskind’s book, and now this, I’m beginning to wonder if I haven’t been a teeny bit too cynical, and that Obama is weaker and more neurotic than I thought, and has other internal drivers, besides being driven by the power elite (i.e. the “1%”).

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Peter Knopfler's avatar

By Peter Knopfler, October 16, 2011 at 5:15 pm Link to this comment

HOW ABOUT THIS: OBAMA GENETICS MAMMY WAS KANSAS WHITE,
STUDYING & WORKED IN HONOLULU EAST WEST CENTER=CIA=
ANTHROPOLOGY STUDENT BECAME CIA EMPLOYEE. INDONESIA
AGAIN BARRY OR OBAMANITO?? DIFFERENT FATHER= BACK to
HIGH SCHOOL IN HAWAII MOST EXPENSIVE SCHOOL IN THE
ISLANDS.
HE IS BLACK OUTSIDE & WHITE INSIDE THAT TAKES AFTER THE
MOTHER: HALF BREEDS HAVE DOUBLE TROUBLE, TELL HIM NOT
TO CONVERT TO BE A JEW IT GETS WORSE! I KNOW I TOO HALF
BREED!

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tolstoy's avatar

By tolstoy, October 16, 2011 at 3:41 pm Link to this comment

“Almost tragic . . .” Almost? He has the abandoning fathers, the undiscerning mother, a questionable toughness, fall from grace as a charlatan, and he might be chewing his fingernails in the photo. I suggest he definitely be elevated to full-on tragic.

PS: Doesn’t Truthdig have more valuable commentary to offer than this baloney?

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zonth_zonth's avatar

By zonth_zonth, October 16, 2011 at 1:43 pm Link to this comment

Perhaps the author needs to analyze
O’s followers instead; as the
psychology of a leader and the
pathologies of the followers are
closely linked. The leader articulates
ideas that nourish the sheep’s
character. This is what makes the
whole modern political process so
retched ie—interviewers fawning over
candidates, mobs hanging onto every
word of the ilke of Sara Palin etc

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Oceanna's avatar

By Oceanna, October 16, 2011 at 8:42 am Link to this comment

I couldn’t care less what else Frank has to say on Obama.  He’s just another
attention-grabbing media doc, exploiting the public’s need for voyeurism like Dr.
Phil.  Of course, that’s minus the TX drawl and folksiness and with instead, elitism
and antiquated theories. 

The comments here make for far better reading than the US World News and
Report could.

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By bpawk, October 16, 2011 at 8:24 am Link to this comment

Psychoanalyze this!
Obama is withholding his opinion as to whether he’s for or against the movement - he’s waiting to see if anyone in the movement will figure out that it’s the politicians who enabled Wall Street to unlimited risk taking by deregulation, easy tax breaks for the wealthy and bailouts - then the protesters will go after him - so he doesn’t want to back them if they challenge him - he’s biding his time til he knows which way the wind blows.

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prisnersdilema's avatar

By prisnersdilema, October 15, 2011 at 7:33 pm Link to this comment

Great posts…the FDA should require Dr. Zings…..post as a warning label on every bottle
of meds..but their too busy trying to outlaw vitamins so the pharmaceutical companies
can turn them into prescriptions medications at 10 times the price…

Report this

By Trisha, October 15, 2011 at 1:07 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Balderdash! Obama is the latest sellout in a long line of sellouts and his actions are his own, his lies are his own, his obvious contempt for the citizens who voted for him is his own. Had the shrink said Obama having been born poor felt driven to seek out rich benefactors to further his own desire for wealth, I’d have been willing to meet the shrink half way. But Obama did not come from poverty. His mother and his fathers - both of them - had deep connections to the CIA, USAID (same people) and the foreign policy elite of the U.S.. To claim it’s all the fault of absentee fathers is an insult to the many, hard working and decent Americans who have experienced the same loss and yet have risen above it.

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D.R. Zing's avatar

By D.R. Zing, October 15, 2011 at 11:03 am Link to this comment

The former Soviet Union relied heavily on
psychiatrists to imprison and banish people to
Siberia. After all, if living under the heavy
hand of a totalitarian regime made you depressed
and rebellious, you were obviously mentally ill,
right? 

The United States relied heavily on psychiatrists to
develop the torture techniques that it employed on
detainees in Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.

Say your wife just died, you just lost your job, your
oldest child is a drug addict and by the way the bank
just took over your house. You have never been
depressed in your life.  But you are now. 

You psychiatrist will not tell you that you are
supposed to be sad when your spouse dies.  Your
psychiatrist will not tell you that depression serves
a genetic and evolutionary purpose: It helps people
assess their situation accurately and change it. 
Nope. 

Your psychiatrist will declare you mentally ill and
put you on anti-depressants that only work thirty-
three percent of the time, about the same
effectiveness for depression as engaging in rigorous
physical exercise for an hour a day. 

Your psychiatrist will not tell you that the pills
are more likely to make you fat than cure your
depression. 

Your psychiatrist will be happy that anti-depressants
cause dependency. If you stop taking them
abruptly you will go through withdrawal. Your
psychiatrist will be happy because it means he or she
or it can charge an insurance company two to three
hundred bucks an hour for you to come in and get a
prescription filled that about as likely to give you a
dysfunctional pecker as it is to cure your depression. 

And, if you take the pill and get too happy,
then you are bipolar, and your psychiatrist can put
you on bipolar meds.  The combination of antidepressants and
bipolar meds is likely to cause insomnia and then your
torturing care giver can put you on benzos (most likely Klonopin),
which are unique in that unlike opiates and other
terrible drugs, withdrawal from benzos can cause
fatal seizures, the same seizures that severe
alcoholics go through, delirium tremens.

Your psychiatrist now really has you by the short and
curlies. If you now refuse treatment, your life is
in danger; your psychiatrist can have you incarcerated. 

Your friends who noticed you were depressed but
tolerable and that you even perked up a bit if they
took you bowling or to the gym, notice that you are a
total whack job because you are literally
drugged out of your mind—out of the mind you were
born with anyway.

No, make no mistake about it, we will all be better off
when psychiatry is supplanted by neurology.

Be wary of psychiatrists. They can be dangerous,
malevolent, and parasitic. Their own background—
and how much they are in debt—determines their
diagnosis more than your background does.

They are far too prone to declare us mentally ill
and to prescribe treatment that is more torture than cure.

As for the book, I’m sure it’s interesting. I love
going into those voodoo shops in New Orleans and
looking at the skeletons in the closets.

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By Cliff Carson, October 15, 2011 at 10:44 am Link to this comment

I don’t care what his psyche is.

All I need to know is that he is a failure and he didn’t have to be.  Too many Americans put their faith in him, I was one. 

Yes I know that the Republican Party has done everything possible to keep misery alive in America hopeful that would anger Americans such that they would vote Republican - in other words return the fox to the hen house - because of the public’s disenchantment with him and the Democrat Party.  To the American public’s shame this is working.

But I said he didn’t have to be a failure and he wouldn’t have been if he had fought tooth and nail and even tried to keep even a small pittance of his promises, especially those that didn’t require Republican endorsement - for example canceling the Bush directives, vetoing earmarks legislation, and the biggie bringing the troops home.  Alas he didn’t even take care of those promises.

Seems he forgot to tell his voters that he was a Republican in the mold of Bush.

What can be done when both Political Parties are nothing but mirror image criminal elements?  OWS is a start.  They need our support.  There needs to be 10 times their number in the streets, especially when the Government decides to become violent, and ultimately they will.  Did you see the treatment by the police of the photographer who fell in the street, was run over twice by a police motorcyclists, then was pinned face down while laying in the street after being run over twice - pinned with a big fat policeman on his back driving a billy club into his neck?

Did you see that on TV?

Surely there are some video’s on the net showing it.  I think it is a portent of things to come.  I wonder how long it will be before some policeman or soldier kills a protester.

Then things will really get ugly out there.

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By giacomo, October 15, 2011 at 9:07 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

While it is tempting to psychologically diagnose prominent people like Obama, it is also distinctly forbidden by the psychology professions’ ethical principles. It is called “diagnosis in absentia” meaning a professional must diagnose from personal contact in a professional setting, which is richer in information by far than speculating from the public sphere.  Unfortunately, this has become common of late, a newer version of the old ad hominem argument.

As a retired psychotherapist, I have long thought, as have many writers of late, that powerful, greedy people have psychiatric disorders, narcissistic personality disorder and antisocial behavior being common among them, for example. However, the causes for the lust for wealth and power are complex and vary considerably from individual to individual, and outmoded and unscientific theories such as psychoanalysis are hardly the tool to unravel the problem.  Obama should be judged by his words and actions, not by unethical, ad hominem attacks based in the speculative use of psychology.  In other words, it’s far more important to realize he is a liar and a crook. You don’t need psychoanalysis for that, and in this case information from the public sphere is adequate.

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By A. Benway, October 15, 2011 at 8:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Interesting, but Barky’s simply a shill, a servile instrument of great power and wealth, and the methods by which wealth and power is accumulated and “protected”. It’s an old story: “vox et praeterea nihil” - a voice and nothing more. Of course, he probably thinks that he’s “the decider”, but “fall-guy” is closer to reality…

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, October 15, 2011 at 6:40 am Link to this comment

Psychological analysis of this sort can explain anything and predict nothing.  It is, however, very entertaining.  Those who attend cocktail parties regularly, engage in dormitory bull sessions, or schmooze in the less noisy bars, owe Freud and Jung and their numerous apostles and imitators a great debt on this account.

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prisnersdilema's avatar

By prisnersdilema, October 15, 2011 at 4:58 am Link to this comment

This work is questionable..If President Obama was under this mans care he would be
sued for malpractice for releasing confidential information. To use his professional
knowledge in this way is unethical. His first concern should be the psychological welfare
of Mr. Obama, and this information can be nothing but detrimental. The purpose here is
to satisfy the authors need for attention, by pandering to the publics need for gossip, and
is voyueristic on it’s face. Physician heal thyself..Analytic tools were not developed as a
forn of entertainment, and it is harmful to use them in this fashion both to the president
and the profession.

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Outraged's avatar

By Outraged, October 15, 2011 at 1:48 am Link to this comment

You don’t say….lol

So…(maybe I should read the book) but, my question is
why did he choose Summers and Geithner?  Self inflicted
injury… or…or…fight or flight….or…. does this
book elaborate…?  Dumb question, I know.

Personally, Obama doesn’t strike me as flippant.  He
does at times strike me as overly analytical or
theoretical but overcompensating or overreacting
because of his “daddy”. No.

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By gerard, October 14, 2011 at 8:10 pm Link to this comment

Oh,please!

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